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Poll Diaries

The Poll Diaries

Chris Kraus

  • Country: Germany, Austria, Estonia
  • Year: 2010
  • Language: German, Russian, Estonian, French
  • Screenplay: Chris Kraus
  • Runtime: 129
  • Programmes:

On the eve of World War I, a 14-year-old German girl returns to her home on the Baltic coast, a place uneasily shared by Germans, Russians and Estonians. While her morbid scientist father controls the family with a cruel hand, the passionate young girl secretly nurses a wounded Estonian anarchist back to health – an act of curiosity and then of defiance that could set off an uncontrollable chain reaction.

screening times

    • Thursday September 16
    • 6:00:00 PM
    • Friday September 17
    • 11:15:00 AM
    • VARSITY 8
    • Sunday September 19
    • 9:00:00 AM
    • Tiff Bell LightBox 1

Note: indicates Premium Screening.

official description

With the award-winning Four Minutes, director Chris Kraus established a talent for powerful drama rooted both in character and history. The Poll Diaries furthers his craft and his curiosity about human nature, but this time the story comes from the life of his own great aunt. Unlocking a too-little known chapter of European history, Kraus recreates a Baltic community on the brink of the First World War.

In the summer of 1914, thirteen-year-old Oda Schaefer (Paula Beer) leaves Berlin to join her family and an assortment of German and Russian aristocrats on an estate in Estonia. The Schaefer family home is a character in its own right, a hulking, neoclassical manor that hovers on stilts above the sea. Oda arrives there bearing her mother’s coffin and a gift requested by her surgeon father: a jarred, two-headed fetus to add to his laboratory of gruesome curiosities.

Ebbo Schaefer (Edgar Selge) sees himself in his daughter when she calmly and expertly learns to suture the corpse of a cat. What he fails to recognize – and what Oda luckily understands – is that their interest in science is their only similarity. His dedication to experimentation is linked to an appalling obsession with power and destruction, while Oda is genuinely curious about life. Her quick, quiet intelligence complements her humanity and her lucid understanding of right and wrong. When she strays from a family picnic and discovers a badly wounded Estonian anarchist, she helps him without a second thought, smuggling him into her father’s lab and putting her new surgical skills to good use. As their illicit friendship deepens, family turmoil escalates and war closes in. The safe haven of the community collapses, forcing Oda’s family to make impossible choices.

Shot in rich, muted tones and sharp shadows, The Poll Diaries is historical drama at its finest. Posing a range of ethical questions, the film offers a compelling commentary on a morally bankrupt brand of reasoning that would come to underlie some of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century.

Cameron Bailey

director bio

Chris Kraus was born in Goettingen, Germany and studied at the German Film and Television Academy (DFFB) in Berlin, where he now teaches. He is an award-winning screenwriter and director, whose films include Shattered Glass (02) and Four Minutes (06). The Poll Diaries (10) is his latest feature film.

full credits

Principal Cast: Paula Beer, Edgar Selge, Tabet Tuisk, Jeanette Hain, Richy Müller
Daniela Knapp
Uta Schmidt
Heinz K. Ebner
Annette Focks
Production Designer:
Silke Buhr
International Sales Agent:
 Bavaria Film
Production Company:
Kordes & Kordes Film
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